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Teri Woods Publishing, L.L.C. v. Williams

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 25, 2013

TERI WOODS PUBLISHING, L.L.C., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DESEAN WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ROBERT F. KELLY, SENIOR JUDGE

Presently before this Court are Plaintiffs, Teri Woods and Teri Woods Publishing, L.L.C.’s, Requests for Default Judgment against Defendants, DeSean Williams and Seaburn Publishing Group. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs’ Requests are granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Teri Woods Publishing, L.L.C. (“Plaintiff Publishing”), is a domestic, limited liability company engaged as a “mom-and-pop sort of book publishing company” located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Compl. at 2. Plaintiff, Teri Woods (“Plaintiff Woods”), is an adult individual and a “well known, New York Times best-selling author” residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Id. Plaintiffs, Publishing and Woods (collectively “Plaintiffs”), aver that they are the rightful and lawful copyright holders of certain literary works, including, but not limited to, the following books: “Dutch I”; “Dutch II” a/k/a “Dutch II: Angel’s Revenge”; “Dutch III: International Gangster” (collectively, “Dutch Series”); “Deadly Reigns I”; “Deadly Reigns II”; and “Deadly Reigns III” (collectively, “Deadly Reigns Series”).[1] Id.

On August 23, 2012, Plaintiffs filed suit against seven Defendants including Defendants, DeSean Williams (“Defendant Williams”) and Seaburn Publishing Group (“Defendant Seaburn”) (collectively “Defendants”). Id. Plaintiffs’ Complaint sets forth fourteen counts including: Copyright Infringement; Civil Conspiracy; Unjust Enrichment; Accounting; Constructive Trust; Permanent Injunction; Violation of the N.J. Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) statute; False Light Invasion of Privacy; and New Jersey State Civil Rights Violations. Id. at 6-18.

In the Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants undertook the following illegal actions. Defendant Williams was the “mastermind behind the unlawful and improper counterfeiting” of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, and “engaged in a scheme to unlawfully manufacture, distribute and sell” these works for his own personal gain. Id. at 4. Defendant Seaburn illegally manufactured, distributed and/or sold bootleg copies of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted literary works and illegal derivative works. Id. at 6A.

After service of process on Defendants initially proved problematic, Plaintiffs served Defendant Williams on December 18, 2012, and Defendant Seaburn on February 28, 2013. See Doc. Nos. 5, 32. When Defendants failed to plead or otherwise defend the suit, Plaintiffs filed Requests for Default with the Clerk of Court against each Defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). See Doc. Nos. 24, 56. Default was subsequently entered in favor of Plaintiffs as to Defendant Williams on February 7, 2013, and as to Defendant Seaburn on July 23, 2013. Id. Defendants did not move to have the entry of default vacated or set aside under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(c). Furthermore, throughout the entirety of this suit, Defendants have neglected to answer or defend Plaintiffs’ suit in any manner. This includes Defendant Seaburn’s failure to respond or appear at an in court hearing on April 4, 2013, to defend against Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction against it, which was subsequently granted. See Doc. No. 42.

On November 6, 2013, Plaintiffs filed requests with this Court for default judgment in favor of Plaintiffs against each Defendant. See Doc. Nos. 67, 68. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that six “separate, willful violations of the Copyright Act of 1976” were committed by each Defendant. Id. As compensation for Defendants’ allegedly illegal actions, Plaintiffs seek the statutory maximum amount of $150, 000 per violation. A finding in favor of Plaintiffs on all counts for this amount would result in an award of $900, 000 in damages to be paid by each Defendant. Id. Moreover, Plaintiffs seek $7, 000 in attorney’s fees, and $400 in costs from each Defendant. Id. In total, Plaintiff requests default judgment by the Court in the amount of $907, 400 against each Defendant. Id.

II.STANDARD OF LAW

Under Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a default may be entered when “a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend as provided by these rules.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). A court’s power to grant default judgment “has generally been considered an ‘inherent power, ’ governed not by rule or statute but by the control necessarily vested in courts to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.” HICA Ed. Loan Corp. v. Lepera, No. 11-960, 2011 WL 3515911, at * 1 (D.N.J. Aug. 10, 2011) (quoting Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1181 (3d Cir. 1984)).

Due to the fact that default judgments deny the disposition of claims on the merits, courts frown upon their entry. Culver v. O.S.H.A., 248 F. App’x 403, 408 (3d Cir. 2007). However, default judgment is appropriate where: “(1) the plaintiff would suffer prejudice if default is denied, (2) the defendant does not appear to have a litigable defense, and (3) defendant’s delay is due to culpable conduct.” Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 164 (3d Cir. 2000); see also Bibbs v. Sec. Atlantic Mort. Co., Inc., No. 10-346, 2012 WL 3113975, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 1, 2012).

III.DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs seek default judgment against each Defendant for six separate acts of copyright infringement. The entry of a default judgment is a two-step process. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a) & (b). First, the party seeking default must request that the Clerk of Court enter a default against the party for failing to plead or otherwise defend itself. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Upon the Clerk of Court’s entrance of default, the party must then apply to the Court for a default judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2).

Here, the Clerk of Court entered default in favor of Plaintiffs against Defendant Williams on February 7, 2013, and Defendant Seaburn on July 23, 2013. See Doc. Nos. 24, 56. Thus, we now determine whether Plaintiffs’ Requests for ...


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